8 Mini Workouts That Work Your Whole Body

Woman exercising at the gym
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Decades ago, exercise was something we did for fun and to feel good, but these days exercise isn't a luxury, it's a necessity. We've gone from an active society to one that spends most of its time on its rear end. We sit at work, when we watch TV, playing video games, driving—most of us sit much more than we stand or move. Sitting too much increases all kinds of health risks like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even early death.

We all know we need to exercise and we all know the basics of a complete program: Cardio, strength training, and flexibility exercises. It sounds simple, but when you look at a typical exercise schedule that includes all of these components, you see how tough it can be to fit everything in, especially if you have a busy schedule, which most of us do.

That's where mini-workouts come in. Short workouts can be just as effective as longer, continuous workouts if you do them the right way. The real key is working hard in the time you have.

The Benefits of Short Workouts

Too often we think we have to exercise for an hour or more, but experts have learned otherwise. Short workouts have their own benefits including:

  • Weight loss - One study published in the Journal of Obesity found that high intensity intermittent exercise may be more effective at reducing overall body fat as well as belly fat.
  • Improvements in fitness - Studies have also shown that a short, fast high-intensity workout in as little as 7 minutes can offer the same benefits as a long run or an hour lifting weights.
  • Easier to schedule - It's much easier to fit in a 10-minute workout than, say, an hour of cardio or strength training.
  • Improve your health - Another study published in Diabetologia found that people with type 2 diabetes benefitted more from interval walking than one continuous walk.
  • Workouts are easier to stick with - It's easier to commit to several shorter workouts, which means you're much more likely to create an exercise habit that sticks.

    Keeping Up the Intensity

    The real key to making short workouts work is to work at a high level of intensity. The shorter the workout, the harder you should work to get the most out of that workout.

    There are a variety of ways to work harder in a shorter period of time including:

    • High intensity interval training - This type of workout might include doing a series of high impact or high intensity moves one after the other with very short rests in between.
    • Tabata training - With Tabata, you do 4 minutes of high intensity work, doing a very high intensity exercise for 20 seconds and resting for 10, repeating that for the duration of the workout.
    • High intensity circuit training - This involves compound weight training exercises that get your heart rate up and allow you to work multiple muscles at the same time.
    • Metabolic conditioning - Met con is a type of high intensity circuit workout that involves challenging whole body exercises with very short recovery intervals.

    As a bonus, these types of workouts increase your afterburn, or the number of calories your body burns after your workout.

    Fitting It All In

    So, you know you can do short workouts—what should those workouts look like? The mini-workouts below give you an idea of how to set up your short workouts.

    Each workout, which can be done in 5 to 15 minutes, focuses on one muscle group or one area of fitness, and includes a variety of exercises designed to keep the intensity up for the entire workout.

    How To

    • If you want a full body experience, you can do all of the workouts at one time or at separate times throughout the day.
    • For a busy schedule, you might do one or more workouts each day. Just make sure you allow your muscles to rest at least one day between workouts.
    • For each workout, focus on moving from one exercise to the next with little or no rest in between. This will keep the intensity high so you get the most out of each workout.
    • Monitor your intensity. You should be working hard, at about a Level 7-9 on this perceived exertion chart. You can also use a heart rate monitor to make sure you're in the higher end of your heart rate zone.
    • Make sure you warm up (see the Warm Up Workout below) before each workout and give yourself time to stretch after your workout.

    Precautions

    See your doctor if you have any kind of condition or injury before you try these workouts. Always skip or modify any move that causes pain or discomfort.

    Warm Up Workout

    Equipment Needed: None

    How To

    • Do each exercise for 30 seconds or, if you don't have a timer, do about 20 reps of each exercise.
    • Go from one move to the next with little or no rest.
    • Gradually increase your range of motion to bring your heart rate up to a moderate intensity.
    TimeExerciseRPE
    30 secStep touch - Step out to the right as far as you can, taking the arms up. Step back and then step to the left. Continue stepping back and forth, making the movements bigger as you warm up.Level 4
    60 secStep outs - With the weight on the right leg take the left leg out to the side. Touch the floor and bring the foot back to start. Repeat for 30 seconds on each side, moving as quickly as you can.Level 4-5
    30 secKnee smash - With the arms overhead, weight on the right leg, bring the left knee up while pulling
    the arms down. Lower and repeat, really using the upper body and core. Move as quickly as you can.
    Level 4-5
    30 secStraight leg kicks - Lift the right leg straight up and circle the right arm around and down towards the toe. Repeat on the other side, alternating each side for 30 seconds.Level 4-5
    30 secSide knee lifts - Take the arms up and out to the side like goal posts. Lift the right knee up and try to touch the knee to the elbow, without lowering the arms. Lower and repeat on the other side.Level 5
                                             Repeat 
    Workout Time: 6 minutes

    Workout 1: Cardio

    This cardio workout starts out with basic cardio exercises and gradually increases in intensity with high intensity, high impact exercises.

    How To

    • After the warm up, move right into the cardio exercises listed below.
    • Do each exercise for 30 seconds, moving from one exercise to the other without resting in between if you can.
    • The intensity is cumulative, so you'll find it gets harder as you get to the end of the workout.
    • If you're repeating the circuit, rest for about 30 or 60 seconds before diving back in.
    TimeExerciseRPE
    30 secJog in place - Begin by jogging in place or around the house, moving your arms up and down to increase your intensity.Level 4
    30 secHigh knee jogs - Jog in place, bringing the knees up as high as you can, at least to hip level. Add intensity by circling the arms.Level 5-6
    30 secPlyo lunges - Begin in a lunge position and jump, switching the feet in the air and landing in a lunge with the other leg forward.Level 7
    30 secPlyo jacks - This is like a slow jumping jack. Jump the feet wide into a low squat and then jump them back together while circling the arms.Level 7
    30 secBurpees - Squat to put your hands on the floor. Jump or step back into a plank. Jump or step the feet back in, stand up and jump (optional).Level 8
    30 secPrisoner squat jumps - Begin with feet hip-width apart and hands behind the head. Lower into a squat and then jump as high as you can. Land with the knees soft back into your squat.Level 8-9
    30 secBurpee squat: Begin in a plank position and jump the feet into a wide stance squat, arms up. Lower, jump the feet back and repeat. Keep the squat low for each rep.Level 8-9
    30 secPuddlejumpers- Take a giant step out to the right bringing the arms out wide. Go to the other side and keep going, as fast, low and wide as you can.Level 8-9
    30 secIce breakers - Begin in a squat position and come up on the toes or jump, circling the right arm around and down into a chop as you land. Jump up on the toes again, this time chopping down with the left arm.Level 8-9
    30 secMountain climbers - In a pushup position, run the feet in and out as fast as you can.Level 8-9
    Repeat
    Workout Time: 10 Minutes

    Workout 2: Lower Body

    This workout will really work your lower body with five exercises that target the glutes, hips, and thighs. There are some tempo changes for some exercises to add intensity and keep the burn going. Try to use the heaviest weights you can to get the most out of this workout.

    Equipment

    Various weighted dumbbells, a Gliding Disc, paper plate or a towel (if you're on a hardwood floor)

    How To

    • Do each exercise as suggested, keeping each move slow and controlled.
    • Move from one exercise to the next without rest in between, if you can.
    • Repeat the circuit twice for a more intense workout.
    ExerciseSets/Reps
    Pulsing Squats - Holding heavy weights, squat as low as you can. Hold that position and then slowly pulse up just a few inches. Pulse for eight reps, stand up, rest briefly and then repeat four times.4 sets of 8 pulsing squats
    1.5 Lunges - Start in a lunge position holding heavy weights. Lower into a lunge, then push just halfway up. Lower back down into the lunge and then press all the way up. That's one rep. Repeat for eight reps on each leg.8
    Deadlifts to overhead press and reverse lunge - Hold weights in front of the thighs and tip from the hips into a deadlift. As you come back up, take the weights overhead and do a reverse lunge on each leg, keeping the weights straight up.8
    One leg sit and slides - Using a Gliding Disc, paper plate or a towel if you're on a hardwood floor, hold one heavy weight in both hands at chest level. Place the heel of the right foot on the disc or towel and bend the left knee, sliding the right heel straight out in front of you. Repeat and then switch sides.12
    Wide squat weight exchange - Stand with the feet wide and out at a slight angle. Hold a very heavy weight in the right hand and bend the knees into a squat. The knees should stay in line with the toes. Put the weight on the floor and stand up. On the next squat, pick up the weight with the other hand. Continue squatting and alternating hands.12
    Repeat
    Workout Time: 10-15 Minutes

    Workout 3: Chest

    Your chest is one of the largest muscles in the upper body and there are a variety of exercises to work every part of the pecs. These five moves will hit it hard, giving you a great overall chest workout.

    Equipment Needed

    Various weighted dumbbells

    How To

    • Start with a warm up and then move through the exercises, one after the other, with very short rests in between.
    • Try to use as much weight as you can.
    • Make sure you stretch at the end of the workout.
    ExerciseSets/Reps
    Pushups - Start on the hands and toes or do these on your knees for a modification. With hands wider than the shoulders, abs braced and back flat, bend the elbows and lower into a pushup as far as you can go. Slowly come back up and repeat.2 sets of 16 reps
    Chest Flies- Lie on the floor or bench and hold weights over the chest with the palms facing in. With a slight bend in the elbows, lower the arms out to the sides until the elbows are just below the chest. Pull weights back up and repeat.2 sets of 16 reps
    Y Chest Press - Lie on a bench and hold weights with elbows bent as though you're about to do a chest press. Straighten the arms and press the weights up and out at an angle into a y-shape. Bring the weights together over the chest, lower back down and repeat for 10 reps. 10 reps
    Pushups - Do one more set of 16 pushups. Choose any version you like.16 reps
    1.5 Chest Presses - Lie down and hold weights straight up over the chest. Bend the elbows into a chest press, then press the weights up halfway. Lower the weights again and then press all the way up. That's one rep.10 reps
    Repeat
    Workout Time: 10-15 Minutes

    Workout 4: Shoulders

    This workout has just five exercises, but they all focus on the deltoids—the front, medial, and rear deltoids. There are also some tempo changes in some exercises to increase your time under tension and keep the intensity going.

    Equipment

    Various weighted dumbells, resistance band

    How To

    • Make sure you warm up before the workout.
    • Do each exercise as suggested, resting briefly if the exercise has more than one set.
    • Try to use the heaviest weight you can to get the most out of the workout.
    • Do one set for a shorter workout, repeat the exercises for a longer, more intense workout.
    ExerciseSets/Reps
    Overhead presses - Begin standing with arms bent to 90 degrees, weights next to the ears. Your arms should look like a goal post. Press the weights overhead and lower back down and repeat. Brace the abs so you don't arch the back.2 sets of 12 reps
    Front, side, and lateral raises - Hold weights in front of the thighs and lift them straight up to shoulder level, arms straight and parallel to the floor. Keeping them straight, open the arms out to the sides and then lower them so they're next to the hips. For the next rep, do the reverse—lift the arms up to the sides, then front, then down. That's one rep.8 reps
    Lateral raises with high-end pulses - Holding weights at your sides lift the weights up and out to the sides to shoulder level. Hold and pulse the weights up and down just a few inches for four reps. Lower and repeat for a total of eight reps.8 reps
    Bentover straight arm band press - Loop the band under the feet and hold handles. Tip from the hips and, keeping the arms straight, press the arms back so that they're just above torso level. Pulse up for eight counts, lower and repeat for eight reps.8 reps with 8 pulses per rep
    Rear delt flies band - Get on your hands and knees and hold one side of the band under the right hand, keeping it in place. Grab the other end with the left hand and lift the left arm straight up to shoulder level leading with the elbow and squeezing the back and shoulder. Adjust hand placement to increase or decrease tension.16 reps per side
    Repeat
    Workout Time: 10-15 Minutes

    Workout 5: Back

    These exercises target all of the muscles of the back, including the upper back, lats, and the lower back all in just five moves. With a mixture of dumbbells and resistance bands, you'll hit all the muscles in different ways.

    Equipment

    Various weighted dumbells, resistance band

    How To

    • Warm up with the warm up above or with warm up moves of each exercise.
    • Do each exercise as suggested, resting briefly between sets if there's more than one.
    • Do one circuit or, for a longer more intense workout, do two circuits.
    ExerciseSets/Reps
    One arm row - Holding a heavy weight, bend over with a flat back, holding the weight towards the floor. Bend the elbow and pull the weight up, squeezing the back and taking the elbow to torso level. Lower and repeat on each side.2 sets of 12 reps on each side
    One arm reverse flies - Choose a lighter weight and get into the same position as the one arm row, back flat and parallel to the floor. This time, keep a slight bend in the elbow as you lift the arm straight up and out to the side, squeezing the shoulder blades together. Lower and repeat on each side.2 sets of 12 reps on each side
    Bentover pulsing band rows - Loop a resistance band under the feet and grab onto the band close to the feet, if you need more tension. Pull the elbows up into a row and slowly pulse for 12 counts. Lower, rest briefly, and repeat for four sets.4 sets of 12 pulses
    Band high rows - Wrap a band around a sturdy object in front of you and step back, holding the handles. Take the arms straight up, palms facing down. The arms should be a chest level. Bend the elbows and pull the handles back, squeezing the shoulder blades and pulling the elbows just past the torso. Pulse for 12 reps, lower and repeat for four sets.4 sets of 12 pulses
    Deadlifts - Holding heavy weights, stand with feet hip-width apart, weights in front of the thighs. Tip from the hips and, keeping the back flat and abs in, lower the weights as low as you can, keeping a slight bend in the knees. Come back to start and repeat.12 reps
    Repeat
    Workout Time: 10-15 Minutes

    Workout 6: Triceps

    Doing all of the exercises below, one after the other, will target every area of the triceps. Try to use heavy weights and keep the rest periods at a minimum to get the most out of this workout.

    Equipment

    Various weighted dumbells, resistance band

    How To

    • Make sure you warm up before doing this workout.
    • Do each exercise as suggested. Rest briefly between sets if there's more than one set.
    • Do one circuit if you're short on time, add a second circuit for a harder workout.
    ExerciseSets/Reps
    Lying triceps extensions - Lie down and hold the weights straight up over the shoulders, palms facing in. Bend the elbows and lower the weights down next to the ears. Squeeze the triceps back to start and repeat.2 sets of 12 reps
    Dips - Sit on a chair and brace your weight on your hands, lifting the hips up. Bend the elbows into a dip, going no lower than 90 degrees and keeping the hips close to the chair. Push back up and repeat.4 sets of 8 reps
    Triceps kickbacks with rotation - Holding weights, bend over and take the back parallel to the floor, back flat, and abs braced. Pull the elbows up and keep them there. Extend both arms straight back and at the top, rotate the hands so that they face the ceiling. Lower and repeat.16 reps
    Seated triceps extensions - Sit holding one heavy dumbbell in both hands, straight up over the head. Bend the elbows and lower the weight behind your head keeping the elbows from flaring out. Lift back up and repeat.12 reps
    Band kickbacks with pulses - Loop the band under the feet and hold handles in both hands. Pull the elbows up and hold them there as you extend the arms straight behind you. Bend the elbows a few inches and then extend them again for pulsing for eight reps.4 sets of 8 reps
    Repeat
    Workout Time: 10-15 Minutes

    Workout 7: Biceps

    The biceps can usually handle a variety of exercises and a lot of weight. The five exercises below include some classic moves, some done at different tempos to add to the intensity.

    Equipment

    Various weighted dumbells, resistance band

    How To

    • Warm up before you do this workout.
    • Try to move from one exercise to the next without resting, if you can.
    • Stretch your arms after the workout.
    ExerciseReps
    Biceps curls - Hold heavy weights, palms out in front of the thighs. Curl the weights slowly up towards the shoulders, then back down slowly. The last rep should be very challenging.2 sets of 12 reps
    Hammer curls - Hold heavy weights but, this time, palms face in. Curl the weights up and down slowly.2 sets of 12 reps
    Band crazy 8's - Loop the band under the feet and hold the handles. Curl the handles halfway up for eight reps. Now start at the top of the movement and lower the handles halfway down for eight reps. For the last eight reps do full biceps curls.24 reps
    Concentration curls - Sit on a bench or chair and hold a heavy weight in the right hand. Bend over and hang the weight down, propping the right elbow on the inside of the right thigh. Slowly curl the weight up towards the shoulder. Lower and repeat all reps and then switch sides.12 reps
    Preacher curls on the ball - On the knees, lie down over a ball and hold weights, elbows propped on the ball and bent. Lower the weights over the ball, keeping a slight bend in the elbows at the bottom. Curl the weights up and repeat.12 reps
    Repeat
    Workout Time: 10-15 Minutes

    Workout 8: Core

    This core workout includes a variety of standing and floor exercises that target the abs and lower back with different levels of intensity.

    Equipment

    Various weighted dumbells, resistance band

    How To

    • Warm up before the workout or do this workout after one of the previous workouts.
    • Do each exercise, one after the other. If there's more than one set, rest briefly between sets.
    ExerciseReps
    Overhead squat - Stand with the feet wide, weights in each hand. Take the right arm straight up overhead while keeping the other hand hanging down. Keep the right elbow locked and look up at the weight, if you can. From that position, lower into a squat, keeping the arm straight up. Stand and repeat before switching sides.12 reps
    Band side knee lifts - Hold a band with hands a few inches apart and keep tension on the band. Take the hands straight up and bring the right knee up and out to the side as you bring the right hand, ​the band still taught, towards the knee. Lower and repeat before switching sides.12 reps
    Spiderman - Get into a plank position on the hands and toes. Bring the right knee out to the side and towards the right elbow. Step back and repeat on the other side.2 sets of 12 reps
    Plank - Get on your elbows and toes or, for a modification, you can rest on your hands or rest the knees on the floor. Hold for up to 60 seconds or longer if you can.Hold for 30-60 seconds
    Side hip lifts - Sit on the floor resting on the right hip, knees bent. Get on your forearm and, keeping the knees on the floor, lift the hips off the floor, squeezing the obliques. Lower and repeat before switching sides.12 reps
    Repeat
    Workout Time: 10-15 Minutes

    Sources:

    ACE - ProSource: HIIT Special Issue - Super-short Exercise Bouts (at the Right Intensity) Offer Big Weight-loss Benefits. ACE Fitness. /prosourcearticle/3746/super-short-exercise-bouts-at-the-right.

    Boutcher, Stephen H. "High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat loss." Journal of obesity 2011 (2010).

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